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ALL ELSE FAILED

“Archetype” (13 tracks. ).

This is All Else Failed’s first full-length and my first chance to hear them. My impression is that in this band the Hardcore scene from the northeast continues to grow and progress into broader areas. While all the expected elements are there—crushing, gyrating rhythms, screamed vocals, etc.—AEF also show signs of deep diversification. After three thunderous tunes that play in quick succession, AEF change things with “Route 1”, a song which defies simple categorization. It is something like a ballad, though practically no one would call it that. It slows things down a bit and also tones down the guitars, but it never loses the sense of angst and intensity of the rest of the tunes. The same sort of thing happens again on number 12, “In Time”. This one, however, is more melodic and borders on progressive (think Haste). What it shows is a band that can diversify its style and yet create the same crushing hardcore mood. Tracks numbers five and eight are a different kind of diversion. They are basically short ambient tracks that create a break in the intensity. But not to worry, the intensity never really ends. Elsewhere, tracks ten and eleven (“The Emesis Basin” and “Grain”) make use of some electronic elements, but only for the intro and outro. The album ends with “Stray Bullet” which is best described as experimental/noise, though once again it can be called “ambient”. All these “diversions” that I have pointed out do not make up the bulk of this album. Instead, they serve to throw the listener off guard until the next bludgeoning onslaught. Like other bands on the Now or Never label, Diecast for instance, All Else Failed seem to be doggedly pursuing Candiria’s crown as the top in creative hardcore.

Diecast

“Undo the Wicked” (7 tracks. 33:01).
Diecast come across as a NYC hardcore act with a solid sound. On the one hand, they sound exactly like what you might expect. But subsequent listens reveals a band with undertones of Death Metal. Notice the second track, “Unlearn”, for instance. This song, complete with occasional blast beats and rapid single string playing, actually leans more to Death Metal than the hardcore sound of the opening track, “Peacemaker.” But as far as that goes, all of the songs walk the tight rope between the two genres creating a healthy blend of both. Among other things, Diecast seem to know how to build a song musically and atmospherically. The guitar riffs, for instance, are varied and logical. Tempos vary. And the vocals also vary from screams, to screaches, to clean. Add to that a gritty production and some thought provoking lyrics and you have a good combination. It will be interesting to hear what these guys do next.

Diecast

“Day of Reckoning” (11 tracks. 46:58).
This is one of those transcendent releases. It goes beyond the expectations or limitations of the genre that this band is classified under. Let me tell you as one who usually takes no interest in hardcore, that I freakin’ love this album. Their first release, Undo the Wicked, impressed me. It was the first time I actually liked something that is generally called “hardcore”. But even that release had broader dimensions than just what the term “hardcore” designates. And now, Day of Reckoning leaves that one in the dust.

To begin with, everyone is talking drums on this album. True, very, very true. Already I’ve read where others have made comparisons to Dave Lombardo. I agree, the drumming it tight and very impressive. But let’s not sell this record short by only noticing the drums. Look, the guitars are awesome. The razor sharp production makes them sound killer, but that in itself isn’t enough. Instead, Diecast’s guitar duo (pardon me but I don’t know who plays what) seem to have a broad range of riffs to draw from. No two songs here sound alike, which is something a lot of hardcore bands cannot say. Also, while Diecast’s riffing relies heavily upon machine gun, stop/start rhythms, they seem to incorporate some Death Metal influences thereby expanding the sound. One great example of this is the song, “Exacting My Revenge”. And let’s talk vocals: while there is a large dose of the hoarse screaming and the spoken parts—I call it “preaching”—like you would expect, there is also real singing. The most memorable example is the tune “Singled Out”, but also “Remember the Fallen”, a song about the American soldiers who died in Viet Nam which largely go unappreciated today. Very appropriate.

Finally, I just have to say that this is a great album. I must repeat that it is a transcendent album. I mean that people into various styles of Metal can all come together on this one. Occasionally an album like this one comes along where everyone says, “this one is special”. And it is. Don’t miss it.

Interview with Colin of

Diecast

CRITICALTOM: I'm interested in who writes the lyrics and what specific injustices inspired these harsh lyrics. What I'm trying to figure out is: are you guys just writing lyrics that fit the genre, or are these things that really get you?

COLIN: I write all the lyrics. I don’t think I could sing someone else’s lyrics. It just seems wrong to me. All the songs are about different subject matter really. Many of them such as disrepair are about very personal things I have gone through in my life and have impacted me in a drastic way. Other songs are about more general subject matter, such as the lyrics in plague which are in reference to cancer. I think definitely that most of our songs steer away from a lot of what would be called typical of a band who plays in the hardcore scene. There are definitely songs that are about good friends and stuff like that. But those were written because our friends mean a lot to us. So I just consider that another personal subject.

CRITICALTOM: Isn't hardcore similar to punk in its rhetoric? If so, are your fans drawn in by the lyrics or the sound or both? (I hope this doesn't sound dumb!)

COLIN: No, that’s not dumb at all. To be quite honest I am not really sure if it is one or the other or both. I would like to hope that it is the overall sound of the lyrics and the music that people like, but as long as we have people who are having fun listening to us and as long as we are having fun doing what we are doing, what draws them in doesnt matter too much as far as I’m concerned.

CRITICALTOM: What does Diecast hope to accomplish with Day of Reckoning?

COLIN: We would be very content if we could make it to the point where we can play our music and make enough money to live on so we can continue to do it as a fill time job. That would be the ultimate for me and the band and we hope Day of Reckoning can get us closer to our goal.

CRITICALTOM: When you went into the studio, did you expect an album of this caliber would be produced? Did you set out to push the envelope?

COLIN: We definitely went into this album with the intent of sparing no expense. We wanted to make an album that would blow peoples ears off sonically and musically. So we are very happy with the way it came out. We spent a lot of time on it, a lot more than most bands at our level. So it was a gamble, but I think it was definitely worth it. We just wanted to have an album that made people say wow that sounds really good who the hell is that.

CRITICALTOM: What would you say are the musical influences for Diecast?

COLIN: There are so many and I can’t speak for anyone but myself but my influences are definitely old metal. classics that I grew up on like Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer. Stuff like that.

CRITICALTOM: Do you guys hope for some crossover popularity with the Death Metal crowd?

COLIN: We would love to play for anyone who wants to listen. I don’t care who it is. If death metal kids like us than that’s great. I welcome anyone. The more kids at shows the better. I hope we can cater to anyone who likes heavy music, as long as they are having a good time with us.

CRITICALTOM: Many of your songs speak of injustice. "Solace" is something of a skeptical song. If you do not believe in God, do you believe justice will ever be served in this world? If not, do you believe in justice at all?

COLIN: This is probably the most intelligent question I have ever been asked in an interview. Solace is a special song to me because it deals with my deepening skepticism with the existence of a God. As I grow older and I look around the world, the faith that I was brought up to believe in has slowly fallen away and diminished as I have grown older. I do not believe there is one God but I do believe in justice. I believe it exists, but is not always served, and that it can be found if it is sought after. I think that religion definitely serves a practical purpose in that it gives people piece of mind when they need to believe in something to console them, as misguided as I might think religion is, I can definitely see its pertinence.

CRITICALTOM: What would make the world better?

COLIN: Diecast selling 100,000 copies of day of reckoning. Well that would definitely make the world better from my point of view, but if you’re referring to the rest of the world, I don’t really know. That’s a very tough question. I think if we knew the answer to it we would not even need to ask the question.

CRITICALTOM: Any words you'd like to say to the fans?

COLIN: Yes, thank you guys so much for everything. You guys make all the hard work and sleeping on floors and getting fired from jobs worth it. And without you there would be no point in playing as far as I’m concerned. Thank you.

CRITICALTOM: What would you say to someone who's never heard you before?

COLIN: Just give us an honest listen and decide for yourself after you have heard us whether or not you like us. Don’t take someone’s word for it or their opinions. Thanks a lot.

MAHARAHJ

“Repetition” (11 tracks. 32:58).

Maharahj return with a sophisticated CD that is all too short. Tracks one and two (“Sleep” and “Time and Death and God”) come blazing out with both barrels smoking, but then you are caught off guard with the introspective “Sonata of the Enslaved”. And from here on out Maharah mix brutality with progression, some very technical guitar playing, and all sorts of diversity (piano, acoustic guitar, etc.). Also, don’t miss the hilarious “hidden” track at the end. It is a riot. An intelligent release and a worthy second effort. Fans of Haste, All Else Failed, God Forbid, and Shadows Fall will eat this up.

Maharahj

“Chapter One: the Descent” (12 tracks. 37:34).
This is definitely one of the most interesting hardcore discs I’ve ever heard. As expected, there are some very cool chunky grooves in here. But Maharahj play with passion and intensity in a way that most hardcore bands don’t. Their music contains heavy mind splitting riffs juxtaposed with mellow, but intense, clean parts. The themes—and I believe all the songs may be connected—center around life issues, not political ones per se. There seems to be something existential about this album. Just consider some of the titles: “Amongst the Machines (I am witness to the end)”, “Last Autumn Leaves”, and “Entombed Within Flesh”. Not your typical hardcore themes. The guitarsmanship on this album is incredible. The production is smooth. The drums are diverse. The only thing that really smacks of hardcore are the vocals. And even these are listenable. I must admit that I never thought I’d care much for hardcore. Much of what I’ve heard previously was just a bunch of pubescent attitude bullshit aimed at the masses. Nothing I’ve heard yet on Now Or Never Records really fits that category. So, I am seriously reconsidering my position on the topic of hardcore. So far I’ve found Diecast and Maharahj to be worthy of repeated listens. And if I can be convinced, then I believe that others will agree.

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